UNM Food, in collaboration with UNM Information Technologies (IT) and Honors College, announces the release of the LoboEats App, an original, award-winning platform focusing on food waste and food insecurity on The University of New Mexico’s main campus. Developed by the UNM IT team in collaboration with UNM computer science and economics alumnus Biraj Silwal, and Honors College Associate Professor Sarita Cargas, the app establishes a platform for sharing surplus food while destigmatizing food insecurity.
Silwal won first place in the 2022 UNM & CNM App Contest while developing LoboEats. His vision caught the attention of UNM IT, which saw the potential to turn this idea into a reality. In collaboration, they transformed the concept into the innovative LoboEats App. This partnership embodies the synergy between students and institutional support, as areas from all campus can share surplus food instead of throwing it away.
“What I love about the project is the goodwill it brought. Everybody who worked on it seemed enthusiastic and wanted to contribute, and that has been the most exciting thing about the Basic Needs Project. To meet people from all over The University who care about helping students, that's been truly inspiring,” Cargas said.
Cargas also helps to lead research on food insecurity for the Basic Needs Project and was the faculty adviser for Biraj and the student team that won the app contest with the prototype of LoboEats.
“Now that we are live with the application, there have been incredible reviews and requests on how to expand the functionality of the application,” said UNM IT Project Manager Rebecca Brown.
In 2024, UNM IT will work on enhancing the design of the application to include real-time notifications to the end user when a food item has been taken down or 20 minutes have elapsed for availability, as well as auto refresh on the main feed. Administrative users of the application will also see enhancements to provide a better experience to the end-users, including automated export of user engagement and data to promote the continued quality and upgrades to the functionality.
The dedicated team already has plans in motion to extend the app's impact. The goal is to make the LoboEats initiative a cornerstone of support and community engagement, encompassing North, South and branch campuses alike with hopes to expand state-wide to other universities. Open to faculty, staff, and students, anyone can benefit from the app’s features.
“We need everybody to participate, whether they're food insecure or not… we all need to eat. Everyone forgets their lunch or needs a snack. There's no one that it can't benefit,” Cargas said.
Central campus faculty, staff, and students can participate by downloading the LoboEats app and signing in with their UNM credentials. Users will be notified when food is available or can check the app to view active posts. Event organizers can request to become approved post creators to share food events.
In 2023, the Basic Needs Project studied the prevalence of basic needs insecurity across 27 of New Mexico’s public colleges and universities. The survey had responses from 15,239 students, faculty, and staff, a response rate of 16 percent. 67 percent of the individuals who completed the survey experienced some form of basic needs insecurity, with Black and Indigenous students tending to have higher rates of food insecurity. Additionally, the survey showed that almost 60 percent of New Mexico students recently faced food or housing insecurity.
The LoboEats App is available for download at Apple App Store and Google Play. Join the initiative in creating a more sustainable and connected campus community while taking strides to combat food waste and insecurity.